By Tara V. Kohlenberg —
Okay, time for another House story. This House is not a stately manor made of brick, (or straw or wood, nor is it coveted by a wolf). This House is of flesh and blood. Umm, no, not horror movie style. Today’s story is about George House and the property located at North Seguin Avenue and Zink Street. The unassuming little one-story building located on that corner is an office building — now. But it was once a real hoppin’ place, and oh, and the stories it could tell!
George Warren House was born in 1907 in Uvalde, Texas. He and his family lived all over Southeast Texas during his childhood due to his father’s job. He attended school through the 8th grade, leaving to help the family by working whatever jobs he could: chopping cotton, working at filling stations, shooting galleries, dry goods store, bank, and an oil company.
He was really good at his oil company job. While working for the oil company during 1926, he made his first trip to New Braunfels in his Model T. He thought it was the prettiest place he had ever seen. He went to Landa’s Park to swim. He thought the elephant ears lining the banks of the river were beautiful. (Remember, the park was still private property owned by Harry Landa at that time). On another trip through Oklahoma, he met his wife, Rosalea. They were married in 1927. Their daughter, Mary Anne, was born two years later in Houston.
The House family began visiting New Braunfels in 1936. They were taken with the beauty of New Braunfels and visited as frequently as possible. When there was no available accommodation, they would camp across the river from Camp Warnecke (where Scout Hut now stands).
George House worked in oil exploration before working for Dow Chemical in Freeport for 17 years. After more than a decade of camping trips along the Comal River, George and Rosalea might have been some of the first Houstonians to relocate to New Braunfels when they moved here in 1948. They bought a lot on the corner of North Seguin Avenue and Zink Street and built a copper and brass gift manufacturing business. The copper and brass steins, cups, and decorative tray inventory would be loaded into a woody station wagon to sell to retailers across the South under the Steincraft brand.
Metal materials became hard to get when the Korean War broke out in 1950, so they shifted gears. Steincraft gifts expanded to become Steincraft Drive-in Grocery. Their son, George W. House, Jr., “Sonny”, was born in August of 1950, on the day they received their first truckload of groceries from San Antonio.
Although Warnecke’s Drive-in is thought to be the first drive-in grocery in New Braunfels, it and the Steincraft Drive-in Grocery business were the precursors to today’s ice houses and convenience stores like 7-Eleven, Stop-n-Go and Toot-n-Totem.
New Braunfels boasted a population of 12, 210 in 1950. While not big by any means, the city was considered The Beauty Spot of Texas. Visitors traveled from all over to see Landa Park, and the drive-in grocery was located in the best spot ever to sell ice and picnic supplies to them on their way to Landa Park. Steincraft was the perfect tourist stop, be it for ice, picnic supplies, jewelry, or German cuckoo clocks.
About 1952, the House’s daughter, Mary Anne, and son-in-law, Stan Hollmig, became partners. The industrious family expanded their drive-in grocery by adding a kitchen with short orders, on-premise beer license, delicious chicken “fried by two old hens”, and a long carport for drive-in orders (Sonic drive-in style). By June 1956, they renamed the store Stan Hollmig Drive-In, in honor and recognition of their son-in-law, a noted professional baseball player and Houston Astro scout.
George House liked baseball and could talk baseball all day. When Craig and Sonny were old enough to play Little League, Mr. House coached. Stan Hollmig Drive-in sponsored a Little League team from the mid 1950s to at least 1972, modeling good sportsmanship for hundreds of boys. Hollmig’s also participated as an official weigh-in station for the annual deer hunting contests, even when it was still Steincraft Drive-In. Whether about baseball, deer hunting, or politics, you could almost always find a good discussion going on at Hollmig’s,
For the Houses and Hollmigs, it was always about family and community. The Houses built a home adjacent to the drive-in. Mary Anne and Stan Hollmig welcomed a son, Craig, about six months before George House, Jr. “Sonny” House was born. Cheryl Hollmig came along a little later. All three grew up together at the drive-in.
In later years, the Houses changed gears again. They turned their home into an antique business and lived in an old fachwerk home that they had salvaged outside of Gruene. He was definitely a heck of a good House.
Stan Hollmig Drive-In was closed in 1974, and the buildings became the offices of Hollmig Engineering & Surveying. Now, history could be yours. The Hollmig’s office building is currently vacant and available for rent.
Sources: Sophienburg Museum & Archives; Sonny House; Craig Hollmig; Cheryl Hollmig Warnecke.